Property and asset division. Alimony. Child support. Child custody. These are just a few of the issues confronting parents as they are engage in divorce proceedings. In order to find common ground with a contentious spouse, those separating may be forced to make compromises. The process isn’t tidy and may be exhausting; however, when the divorce papers have been signed, the contract should signal an agreement that is amenable to both parties.
In a perfect world, the end of a marriage should signal a conclusion of conflict. This is rarely the case. In the real world, former spouses don’t stop feuding once the court ratifies the contract. Issues can persist for years, entangling others. Former spouses who feel they have been wronged in the proceedings may conscript their children to fight their battles for them. So common is this unfortunate reality, it has been assigned its own title: “parental alienation syndrome” (PAS).
Child psychologists consider PAS to be a form of child abuse because the intention of the one parent is to manipulate the child into disengaging from the other. In information revealed and actions employed, adults can damage their child’s emotional well-being because the child is encouraged to express hostility towards the targeted parent. When the child rejects the relationship with one parent, the resulting alienation creates a void that may not be filled. Participating in the destruction of the bond teaches the child that relationships can be disposable and can influence the child’s ability to make connections with others in the future.
These are signs that may indicate that a child is being manipulated by one parent:
1. The child resists visiting the parent during the court-mandated period. One parent may suggest the child can choose whether to visit the non-custodial parent when it is not the child’s right to make this decision.
2. The child is privy to personal information about the alienated parent and the divorce because the former spouse does not use a filter.
3. Internalizing the information heard at home, the child begins to act out at the targeted parent, using inappropriate language or engaging in hostile behavior.
PAS is a recognized issue among child psychologists. Parents who believe their child is suffering from this syndrome have options available for recourse. While the impact of this syndrome can be long-lasting, addressing this issue as soon as it becomes evident can limit its influence on the child’s well-being.
Those who believe their relationship with their child has been altered through the willful interfering of a former spouse are encouraged to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable attorney to determine the course of action to take.